Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: I cannot get my mom to stop bad-mouthing my dad in front of my young children. (My parents have been divorced for years but the animosity is still very bad.) I have asked nicely, pleaded with her, and resorted to desperation tactics like covering her mouth with my hand when she starts on a rant. But because we all live in the same home, and sometimes they are alone with her, I know I can never completely eliminate the problem.
How do I protect the kids from hearing negative things about their grandpa every single day?
You cant, not unless youre willing/able to move (her) out.
There is one thing you apparently havent tried, though, on the silencing-Grandma front, and that is to point out whats in store for her if she keeps this up.
Instead of diminishing Grandpa, shes going to drive the kids away from her, because eventually they will be old enough to make the connection that what she says about one person, she could easily say about them. They cant prove that Grandpa did what Grandma accuses, but they hear with their own ears that Grandma will trash someone without compunction, despite being asked to stop.
Not that I expect this to be The Thing that changes her ways; shes probably beyond that. Its just to cover all of your persuasion bases before you move on to this:
Explain to your kids that you love Grandpa, you think hes a good person, though not perfect, and Grandma is angry at him and wont change her mind. Say it enough times so that you cue them when she starts ranting an Ooh, there goes Grandma again comment that will neutralize what your mom is saying.
The kids will make up their own minds and, too, theyre going to ask questions as they get older. Be ready to explain, on a fair, respectful yet kid-friendly level, why Grandma is so angry.
This will also give you an opening, when theyre old enough, to talk about the futility of holding on to anger.
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